Amtrak Gateway Planning Is Coming Together

Initial planning steps toward replacement of the 105-year-old tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and New York's Penn Station are underway, with New Jersey Transit, Amtrak, and the Port Authority of N.Y & N.J. all playing key roles.
October 4, 2015, 5am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx "said that New Jersey Transit had agreed to lead the project’s environmental study and that Amtrak would oversee engineering," writes Emma G. Fitzsimmons of The New York Times.

The steps, while modest, represent the most substantive movement on the project in years. They follow a political breakthrough last month when Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican, and Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, a Democrat, sent a letter to the White House saying their states would line up funding for half of the project’s cost, estimated to be as much as $20 billion.

According to Amtrak's Northeast Corridor Gateway Program webpage, available funding for the project if $300 million.

The flurry of activity amounted to the most progress on the issue since 2010, when Mr. Christie canceled another tunnel proposal [known as Access to the Region's Core, or ARC. Also posted here.]

What may have made the September breakthrough possible was a meeting In August that Mr. Fox held with New Jersey's governor "and the state’s two Democratic senators, Cory A. Booker and Robert Menendez," writes Fitzsimmons. "The four released a joint statement calling the meeting 'substantive and productive,' and indicated that they would work to obtain 'a substantial federal grant contribution' and other funding options for the plan, known as the Gateway Project (tag Amtrak Gateway).

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, proposed creating a nonprofit development corporation to oversee the project. But the governors suggested the Port Authority should take the lead, with a dedicated entity and staff in the agency.

Fitzsimmons poses several fundamental questions which could possibly doom building the critical tunnels, considered "America's most important rail project."

How would the states pay for their share when leaders are already struggling to fund existing infrastructure plans? Could Congress, already wracked by leadership questions, be persuaded to provide significant federal funding? And would the Port Authority, shadowed by scandal and a continuing federal investigation, be the best agency to oversee one of the biggest construction projects in the country?

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Published on Thursday, October 1, 2015 in The New York Times - N.Y. / Region
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